Rising Support for Climate Action Amidst Green Backlash

Rising Support for Climate Action Amidst Green Backlash

Rising Support for Climate Action Amidst Green Backlash

Despite the presence of misinformation, divisive political rhetoric, and angry protests, it appears that a vast majority of individuals support climate action. However, in order to achieve substantial advancements, experts assert that individuals must recognize that they are not isolated in their beliefs.

Farmers protesting against the climate policies of the EU, politicians skeptical of climate change pushing back against reducing fossil fuels, and conspiracy theorists advocating for freedom from the constraints of 15-minute cities: opposition to environmental reform appears to be widespread.

However, the findings of a recent study on global public support for climate action reveal a different story. The study, conducted by the University of Bonn, the Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE, and the University of Copenhagen, shows that an overwhelming majority of those surveyed, 86% of the world population, support climate measures. Furthermore, 89% of respondents are calling for even more political action.

This representative survey, carried out between 2021 and 2022 across 125 countries, involved behavioral researchers engaging with nearly 130,000 individuals either through phone interviews or in-person conversations.

The results of the study did not come as a complete surprise to Theo Schnarr, an activist from the Last Generation climate group in Germany. Reflecting on the group’s protests, which have included controversial road blockades, Schnarr recalled receiving support from passersby who would offer tea and food. Media coverage seldom reflected this encouragement.

“People are aware that we can do better. They recognize that something is amiss, that our current way of living is not sustainable,” Schnarr stated in an interview with the Diplomat News. “People are ready for a transformative change.”

Read Also: Is Thailand’s ‘Clean Air Act’ Sufficient to Eradicate Pollution?

Over Two-Thirds are ready to Fund Climate Initiatives

Madalina Vlasceanu, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, emphasized the importance of amplifying the voice of the majority. She pointed out that the media and public discourse often focus on the negative, overshadowing the majority’s perspective and highlighting the extreme viewpoints.

This tendency to emphasize the negative has distorted the public’s perception of climate protection efforts. According to the survey, 69% of respondents expressed their willingness to contribute at least 1% of their monthly income to support climate measures.

However, there is a significant gap between respondents’ perception of public support and reality. They underestimated by 26 percentage points the willingness of their fellow citizens to take similar actions.

Economics Professor Armin Falk, involved in the study, observed that individuals who consistently underestimate public support for climate action are often less inclined to take action themselves.

Downplaying Climate Concerns: A Barrier to Collective Action

Rising Support for Climate Action Amidst Green Backlash

Patrick Kennedy-Williams, co-founder of Climate Psychologists in the UK, often encounters this issue in his daily work.

“There’s a clear gap between our own thoughts, feelings, and motivations, and what we think others are feeling. This can lead to a decreased sense of collective efficacy,” explained the clinical psychologist to The Diplomat News.

According to a 2023 study by US nonprofit ecoAmerica, although 42% of Americans were “very concerned” about climate change, they believed only 14% of people around them shared the same level of concern. The survey also revealed that four in 10 Americans are unaware of what their local community is doing to combat climate change.

This disconnect contributes to climate anxiety, a feeling of guilt or panic about global warming and its consequences.

“It’s a very isolating experience,” noted Kennedy-Williams, mentioning that exposure to negative news, deceptive practices like greenwashing, and government inaction can exacerbate these emotions. “This can create a cycle: the more climate anxiety we feel, the more negative our perception of those around us becomes.”

Read Also: Climate change lessons in equipping kids for the future

Divisive Politics and Misinformation: Hindrances to Climate Action

Divisive politics and the spread of misinformation are hindering progress in addressing urgent climate issues. Unfortunately, climate change has become a highly politicized topic in many countries, with various groups exploiting it to rally their supporters. This polarization of beliefs has transformed crucial matters such as the transition to green energy and the devastating consequences of extreme weather into partisan debates, resulting in significant delays in implementing necessary changes.

Li Shuo, the head of the China Climate Hub at the Asia Society Policy Institute in Washington, acknowledges the politicization of climate change worldwide. He believes that this dynamic is further fueled by the influence of social media, exacerbating the problem. The prevalence of climate denial on social media platforms, as highlighted by Vlasceanu’s research, is alarming. Despite an increasing number of individuals accepting the reality of climate change, misinformation continues to persist, acting as a major obstacle to taking action.

Vlasceanu emphasizes the critical role of misinformation in stalling progress, stating that it serves as the primary tool for inaction. By sowing doubt and confusion among the public, misinformation provides individuals with an excuse to avoid confronting the pressing issue at hand. The growing polarization of beliefs, coupled with divisive politics and the spread of misinformation, further obstructs taking any meaningful action. Overcoming these significant barriers is crucial to addressing urgent climate issues effectively.

Read Also: What is climate misinformation

People are prepared for a change

Rising Support for Climate Action Amidst Green Backlash

One way to combat the prevailing pessimism, according to Li, is to establish connections between the abstract concept of climate change and everyday life. By demonstrating how a decarbonized economy can offer opportunities for a better future, such as cleaner air, people can adopt a more forward-thinking perspective towards what may seem like an otherwise bleak and daunting challenge.

Kennedy-Williams concurred with this approach, while also advising against solely emphasizing the advantages of newer technologies like heat pumps. He warned that the high costs associated with these solutions could deter individuals from engaging in discussions about climate change.

“They do not see themselves reflected in these conversations, and consequently do not view themselves as part of the solution,” he explained. Instead, he highlighted campaigns in east London that effectively linked people to the issue of climate change by illustrating how air pollution impacts their families. Such initiatives demonstrate to individuals that they are not alone in their concerns.

Vlasceanu, on the other hand, is collaborating with colleagues at NYU to explore methods for encouraging collective climate action in the United States through crowdsourcing. Activist Theo Schnarr echoed this sentiment, stating, “The situation is not without hope. People are prepared for a transformation, and all it takes is to initiate it.”

4 thoughts on “Rising Support for Climate Action Amidst Green Backlash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *